Saturday, July 29, 2017

Miller Hill Mall, Duluth, MN

     There are small towns that need malls, and there are ones that don't, and they have them anyway. While it's debatable that Duluth is a small town (population 86,000), the city needs a mall. That mall is Miller Hill Mall, quite a good mall. While I was there I spotted a whopping zero vacancies. This is quite a feat, as there are larger cities with their only malls being worse. And let's keep in mind that during the mall's life, Duluth didn't have it's best days.

A mall entrance into a mallway with Dick's, DSW, and B&N. 
      The mall started out as a traditional T-shaped center with Montgomery Ward on the east side, Glass Block in the center, and JCPenney to the west. An United Artists theatre, with three screens, was located in the space that I believe is now an Applebee's. The mall was expanded in 1987, adding the corridor that leads to Sears and the food court. Around the same time Glass Block became Dillard's, who sold their store to Saks Northern, turning the store to Younkers. Saks Northern was purchased by Bon-Ton shortly after. The movie theatre began to face competition from larger multiplexes in the city. In 2001, Montgomery Ward was out as an anchor due to Chapter 11 bankruptcy, the space was divided, becoming Dick's, DSW, and a Barnes and Noble. The theatre was demolished, and became Duluth classic Little Angies restaurant. This idea didn't last long, and it was replaced with another new concept by Grandma's, the Great American Bar and Grill. The store was shuttered in 2011. The year 2007 brought a new streetscape to the mall facing Miller Trunk Hwy.

Ah, yes, mall directories.
     The one thing that jumps at me is that it feels like the mall could use a small expansion and renovation. More fountains and planters would be added for the renovation. Enclosed malls are quite useful in Northern Minnesota, and a successful mall is a good place for more enclosed area. I would add a small expansion the wing that goes from Younkers towards Dick's. In this small expansion wing, there would be new stores such as Foot Locker, Forever 21, H&M, Apple (I strongly believe this would work in a place such as Duluth), and other stores that are a looooong way away. The mall is successful enough to have these stores and has a very large trade area of Duluth, Superior WI, Cloquet, and the North Shore. The mall also has tourists and a growing population going for it. This isn't an insane expansion of any type, and is easily possible.

Entering through the aforementioned entrance.

The Bon-Ton Stores own Younkers chain.

Very awkward Sears photo. Pretty average court, nothing to be talked about. A fountain would be cool here.
     This mall will probably not be going anywhere for a good while. The only thing I see a real problem with here are JCP, Sears, and Younkers, which are on shaky ground. Kohl's, Dillard's, and Macy's are candidates for any closures, and moving Target from half a mile away is an interesting possibility. Burlington could move in for emergencies or to anchor the expansion wing I spoke of. Aside from that, Miller Hill will have the advantage of location. While not on an interstate (which would have been nearly impossible due the hills and Lake Superior), it is still on two major routes, Trinity Road and Miller Trunk Highway. A climate-controlled mall will always be a winter hit in Duluth. And as I mentioned, vacancies are unheard of here. Duluth also has zero need for another mall or the awful lifestyle center, and I don't think I need to explain that.

Half of the food court. 

Food court to the Sears area.

And looking down from the Sears area. 

     The city lost 40,000 people between 1960 and 2000, and if the mall can survive that, it will improve when the city grows. It has a major mall owner behind it in Simon Property Group and is already successful. It's gonna be a weird case where the mall's best years are ahead of it. Mark my words.

The center court in the original mall.

The second Younkers entrance.

Stores on the other side of the food court area.

Food court in full view.

Penney's is down there somewhere. Somewhere.

Closing shot from the JCP wing.
Aerial photo of 2017 mall. Sears to the South. Younkers in the middle. JCP to the west. Dick's area to east.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

CoCo Walk, Coconut Grove (Miami), FL

     As our final Miami post for the time being, we will take a look at one of the city's most overlooked shopping venues : Coconut Grove's CoCo Walk. Named for the city's abbreviation CoCo Walk, CW is a lifestyle center located in the heart of the Miami neighborhood Coconut Grove. It's an acting extension to the downtown area, which has plenty of these weird mallways around, in my opinion. Most stores are locally-owned, with GAP and Victoria's Secret reciprocating on this. While there are vacancies and a recently closed Cheesecake Factory, it's not exactly a dying mall. It brings people to the area, which helps all the shops and restaurants surrounding. Not much more to be asked.
     The mall's short and small history starts in 1990, as the first of three phases opened to the public. At the time, the center's acting anchor was an AMC 16-screen operation. The second phase was completed 4 years later, adding another eight screens to the AMC, becoming the namesake 16 screens. The last phase came in 2002, adding a four-story office building and an expansion of GAP. The movie theatre underwent a few name changes the following years. AMC became Muvico in 2010, and Muvico became CinĂ©polis shortly afterward.
     Today's CoCo Walk contains about 30 spots for commercial or office development. The offices are located on  the area's fourth floor. The third floor contains the theatre and a couple spots. The second floor has a few local shops and a sports bar. The first floor holds the GAP and Victoria's Secret stores. One retailer on the second floor is a cross clothing store and Pan American Airlines museum (maybe in correlation with the old NAS a couple blocks away?). As I said before, there is a vacancy problem here.
     As for renovation/redevelopment/expansion, there's not much to be done here. Expansions are unnecessary when there are vacancies, and there is nowhere to go. Renovations aren't needed when the mall isn't that ugly or dated. Redevelopment isn't necessary too. Turning it into full offices would decline the downtown as part of the stores are destroyed. Demolition would be downright pointless. Don't fix it if it ain't broke.

Directory. I dunno how I would explain the shape of this.

Those tables are for a Starbucks on the corner.

Add caption

Looking across at the theatre.

Pan-Am museum.

All four floors in full view here. That is a gym at the top.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Lincoln Road Mall, South Beach (Miami), FL

      Florida's interest in open-air malls always wonders me. Being consistently hot, humid, and rainy, an open-air mall would drive me away. And I'm from Georgia, so you can't say I'm not used to it. This affected me as we take a look at a famous example of this, Lincoln Road Mall. Only half the mall is photographed, but you should get the point. The directory was captured.

Directory peeks at the mall. IMO, the mall is only about six blocks long. Parts are filled with very tacky tourist shops
or are kinda dead.
     Lincoln Road Mall consists of ten blocks surrounding the namesake Lincoln Road. Near the midpoint is a three-story Hennes & Mauritz (H&M) in a repurposed theatre. Behind it is a Macy's. As you get closer to the beach, more touristy shops start popping up. Duplicates are also common at the mall. Four Starbucks and two Haagen-Dazs exist on street corners. A random church without AC is near the center of the mall, possibly a pointer to the "older" Lincoln Road Mall.

Local merchants are clearly out and about in the center of the mall.

     The history of the mall was a lot longer than expected. The area was once a forest of mangroves, but was cleared in 1912. A road was built through and eventually stores started popping up on it. Saks, Bonwit Teller, and a few car dealers were some of the first. Bonwit Teller would move to Bal Harbour in 1965. In the mid 1950's, Morris Lapidus was called on to redesign the street. The road was closed to traffic, and one of the first pedestrian malls was born. Lincoln Road became famous for its architecture over time.

I love malls with plenty of greenspace.

     The aforementioned architecture is pretty cool. Elaborate fountains dot the central median. Statues and art can be seen walking through the mall. Plenty of greenspace make the mall feel like more of a mall than a street. All the buildings look clean and white and fit in pretty well. 1111 Lincoln Road, a parking garage, is also near the mall. I think the only design flaw is the traffic flow in the area. Cutting off every intersecting road in mall proper would probably help with this. Parking is also done through an app, which is a pretty big pain for non-locals. 

     The one massive problem with the mall is vacancies. About a quarter of the mall is empty, which makes me wonder why they expanded twice recently, in 2006 and 2010. I feel like this might be a rent cost problem and not a person problem. Places like J. Crew and H&M can afford large stores, but more mid-market chains don't see the need. It's also touristy, and tourist traps wouldn't have cheap rent. Meanwhile, thriving Starbucks has four locations. This gives the mall an odd feel, with the mix of vacancies, duplicates, cheap touristy crap, upper-market chains, and trendy wares.
     I think the mall will continue to do well. It's clinging on a tourist bubble, and people go there for the fame and history. Foot traffic never hurts malls, and tourists may cool off at Starbucks as they walk. Walking past plenty of dressed mannequins will probably impulse you to buy some clothes as you walk. But if the decline of shopping malls ends up hurting "destination" malls, then the owners could be at a crossroads of the mall's future. Locals avoid it, tourists flock to it, and it's uncomfortable most of the time, so it's not invincible. 

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Shops at Merrick Park, Coral Gables, FL

     As the second installment of the Post-ASG grind, we will be looking at mall/lifestyle center Shops at Merrick Park. MP is a very interesting mall to look at in the Miami area. Truthfully, it shouldn't exist as a mall or in its state. MP is very upscale, and from driving around the city, I don't see the market for it. MP holds one of four Gucci stores in the Miami area, and the high Hispanic influence and small lots and homes don't match up. Even two feels like a stretch to me.

Classic directory photo.
     From what I can tell there is little history of the mall. The mall was developed by The Rouse Company in 2002. I believe the current anchors are original. The center was expanded in 2013, but I can't tell where the expanding took place. Today, the mall is owned by General Growth and has over 100 tenants.

Looking down to NM.

Gucci store barely visible on the far right past Mayors.
     The mall has pretty nice architecture. Being a 2002 mall, it isn't dated, but even, say, 30 years down the road, I don't think this will be necessarily ugly. The mall feels nice and vibrant with ceiling fans and large central gardens. Shapewise, the mall is a curved line enclosed mall, without the roof. Off center court are entrances to the parking garage and a lifestyle center-type area with longtime tenant Equinox Fitness.

Tunnel to mall from parking garage. Light at the end, maybe some foreshadowing?

Center court. Land and plants are obviously kept up well.

Better view of Dallas, Texas's Neiman Marcus store.

     While a mall with Gucci, J. Crew, Banana Republic, and NM definitely isn't struggling, an expansion may be needed in about a decade to stay fresh and afloat. While Miami's worst malls aren't deader than a doornail, but more like meh, Miami probably has too many malls and upscale centers. To stay relevant (Merrick Park isn't as touristy, publicized, or famous as Aventura, Dadeland, or Dolphin) I think an expansion would do well. A strip of stores would be built off the anchors and go over San Lorenzo Avenue. A walkway would connect the lifestyle center, and new store strips. This isn't anything insane.

Sorry for the shorter post. Little history does that. Here's some photos:

Parking garage steps. ~*TrIpPy*~. Was that necessary?

Plenty of fountains and plants, which I cannot disagree with.

Third floor views. Seven stores are located up here.

Nordstrom nearly fits in. Miami's first one.

Details of center court. If MP dies, you could nearly make it a state park.

Nothing special, but looks good with the rest of the greenery.

Feels like walking on yer Sutthern ma's back porch. But seriously, I like the vibes the mall gives.